The Flinch will be available for free via Amazon until the end of June 2012. A print version will follow - for a price - but Smith, 32, said he's more focused on getting his words out than on making a buck or two. He hopes this short work will help readers overcome their primitive instinct to flinch when a risky opportunity presents itself.
In an interview with International Business Times, Smith discussed his new book, overcoming inhibitions, and the prospect of (eventually) turning a profit after giving his intellectual property away for free.
Your marketing strategy for this book is...unusual. Do you have a background in business?
Actually, I work in online media. I've worked and written some of the earliest work on social media and building platforms, like blogs. I've been in the social media space since it existed. Before that, I did online radio. I've been involved with Web communities since my teens, and I've managed online communities since I was 15 or so. Now I'm a professional writer and public speaker and a consultant, specifically as it relates to how people are interacting with new online technologies.
How would you describe The Flinch?
The Flinch is a physical manifestation of a series of psychological walls that we have put around the behavior that we are allowed or not allowed to do. It comes from the fact that as humans, our job is to continue to survive and avoid predators, and not really to push boundaries at all. Now we're in an environment very different from the one we've evolved to work in. In some ways, the flinch is still useful. However, in most circumstances, the flinch is hindering you from the way you need to behave to succeed at what you do.
Is The Flinch an evolutionary relic we need to discard completely?
It's not possible to entirely get rid of it. We just need to transform this reaction into something that rewards us when we have a barrier to cross.
And you provide readers a series of homework assignments to help in this process.
The homework assignments are extremely simple. One is, I tell people to immediately volunteer for something before they resist. The purpose is to simply break your programming. In many cases, it's very valuable. We flinch at being able to talk to a person we might like. We end up limiting our opportunities because we are unable to talk to strangers. We need to break this tendency in order to get the best possible scenario.
You published your book electronically. And for free.
The idea is that there are so many Kindles being wrapped right now for Christmas. You want to be in front of as many people as possible. To me, that's priceless. This is a very small sacrifice to make in order to spread an idea that matters. Most people aren't taking advantage of it. If you're writing a book with profit as the motive, that's not going to work.
And you didn't want to flinch.
It seemed like a very quick window of opportunity. To me it's an expression of an idea in its purest form. There is no price you can pay for that. In some ways it benefits my career. But on a larger scale, it's something that genuinely allows me to feel like I've contributed. For someone who is normally a business writer, that is very valuable.